Fire Safety Check of School Facilities Implemented Following Ceiling Light Fixture Fire at Tilden Middle School

September 20, 2000
School and fire officials announced this evening [Wednesday, September 20] that a fire related to an aging ceiling light fixture in a classroom at Tilden Middle School has prompted a systemwide inspection of similar equipment throughout the Montgomery County Public Schools.

The process of replacing all of the potentially faulty fixtures at Tilden Middle School was initiated today while the school remained closed following a fire there yesterday [Tuesday, September 19]. The school will reopen tomorrow, Thursday, September 21.

Montgomery County fire and school officials are working together to ensure that adequate life safety measures are in place, including visual monitoring, at other school facilities that may have the same light fixture -- an old-design ballast box that regulates electrical current in ceiling light tubes. School staff identified these schools today.

The ballast boxes are models installed in light fixtures up to 20 or more years ago and are no longer available. New ceiling lights installed in schools since 1989 do not have the questionable fixtures.

A total of 46 school facilities [from among 198 educational buildings] were identified today as possibly having the same light fixture. The repair records of all of these facilities were checked today to determine whether any of the light fixtures had shown any damage or required repair. The inspection of the fixtures by licensed electricians began today and all faulty equipment will be replaced. Local building staff will conduct daily inspections until the equipment can be inspected and replaced.

School officials are cooperating with the Montgomery County Fire Marshal and the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission on an investigation into what role the light fixture had in the fire at Tilden Middle School. The fire caused at least $15,000 damage to a single classroom, and the school was evacuated temporarily on Tuesday. No teachers or students were injured or in the classroom at the time of the fire.

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